So, I made mention in my last writing that everyone loves a comeback. And why wouldn’t we? It’s inspiring to see people return from relative obscurity and hone their skills until they are back on top, to watch them persevere against overwhelming odds and finish well, to win when everyone thought they would fail. But here’s a thought: instead of investing our emotional energy into someone else’s tale, how about spending some time on our own?
So, what’s your story? Anyone dwelling in anonymity and defeat? Overcome by the odds? Suffering the consequences of failure and/or disappointment? If the answer is yes to any of these questions – Good.
Yes, good. Not just good but great. Because the first step in staging a comeback is admitting you need one.
Today I want to spend some time with the “Mark” among us. To the one whose story set her on a path of Kingdom impact and yet somewhere along the way she shrank back. To the one who flat blew it and is devastated by the result. To the one who has deserted and doesn’t know the road home. To the one who is too busy to care. To the one whose heart has been shattered into a million pieces and can’t quite forgive God for allowing it to happen. The excuses are legion and yet the reasons for abandoning the God we love and alienating the people He set us among to minister to are irrelevant. What matters is recognizing that ache to walk in the calling God determined for us before we took our first breath and deciding we’ve been in this place of spiritual anonymity far too long. (Ephesians 2:10, 4:1)
There are key role players in redemption but before we can start identifying the responsibilities of the supporting cast (because don’t we love expecting other people to save us?) we must first take a serious look at the face staring back at us in the mirror and ask a difficult question beyond whether to buy that cute top that just popped up in the online boutique on our Facebook feed.
What’s the question? Where am I?
If that one query isn’t specific enough, care enough to dig deeper.
In my current spiritual state:
• Are there discrepancies between the faith I profess and my actions? (James 1:22-24)
• Am I indifferent toward my relationship with God? (Psalm 51:10, 12)
• Do I treat worship attendance and service to the Body lightly? (Hebrews 10:24-25)
• Am I unconcerned about the eternal destiny of people in my midst? (Romans 9:2)
• Am I justifying sin and daring anyone to “judge”? (Philippians 3:17-3:20)
• Am I defeated by the consequences of bad decisions? (Luke 22:61-62)
• Am I angry, bitter at a person for failing me and blaming them for my own shortcomings? (Genesis 3)
• Am I disappointed in God because He did not answer my prayers in the way I’d hoped? (Genesis 4:1-5)
I hope you allowed yourself to contemplate these questions and answer honestly. There are those among us who are as spiritually healthy as they’ve ever been, and then there are the those who are not. There is no shame in the confession – the kingdom of God was born upon them.
In the Garden, God asked Adam and Eve “Where are you”? (Genesis 3:8-13) He wasn’t playing hide and seek – He knew exactly which shrub they were using for cover. He wanted them to ask the question of themselves. The comeback road begins with a truthful assessment of where we are so we can learn how to take the first step home.
Mark began his own journey well but while traveling with Paul and Barnabas, something went wrong. It is impossible to conclude what happened to cause him to desert the team but with persecution on the rise on one hand and Paul striking evil sorcerers blind on the other, it is not unreasonable to speculate he was overwhelmed and wanted to go home to regroup. It’s not as important to know why Mark faltered as it is to see how he responded when he did. If you have identified yourself as a “Mark” at this point – someone who answered “yes” to any of the questions above and longs to be reconciled to God and His people – consider how he postured himself when Paul rejected his bid to return to the missionary team:
1. Mark accepted Paul’s charge of desertion with humility.
This statement isn’t made explicitly within the text however the fact that Mark traveled on with Barnabas to continue spreading the gospel speaks volumes. Think about a time when sin or disobedience has been pointed out in our lives and how we reacted to it? Throughout our time in ministry, I can’t tell you the number of situations when Luke has been involved in a difficult church discipline issue only to have the person being confronted become indignant and often leave the fellowship. No humility, no confession. Just an angry justification that usually included some reference to “judge not lest ye be judged” with a side order of blaming someone else for their failure.
As a ministry wife, please hear me when I say when a pastor must confront one of his sheep it is never with pleasure or condemnation. Rather, he shoulders the burdens of his people and feels every heartbreak as if it were his own. When someone falls for the enemy’s snare and is led into sin, he takes it personally because he feels he should have been able to stop it somehow. We both do. (2 Corinthians 11;29) So, if your pastor or fellow Christian – your Paul – loves you enough to pull you back from the edge of a cliff you may not even be willing to acknowledge you are standing on, know that they risked your rage because the desire to protect you far outweighed any fear of your indignation. Accept the truth with humility, repent, and be open to how God will continue to use you as you recover.
2. Mark remained connected to other believers and accepted any opportunity to continue serving.
When Paul refused to take Mark along on the next mission trip, the temptation for any of us would have been to become angry, wallow in self-pity, and find someone to commiserate with us and coddle our bruised egos. But, that’s not what Mark did. He’d run home to mom once before and refused any temptation to leave again. We know a huge argument broke out between Paul and Barnabas over Mark and they split ways because of it. One can only suppose that if Mark was willing to let these two friends come to blows it is because he had repented of his earlier desertion and was coming back, ready or not.
Opportunities for service for those who have fallen or alienated themselves will vary based on the circumstance. Those desiring a position of responsibility may be asked to go through a time of proving first. One who is committed to finding their way back to usefulness should be willing to be a faithful doorkeeper in God’s house if it means they can be positioned to grow closer still.
3. Mark’s faith continued to grow and his ministry evolved.
Without going into a detailed treatise of the possible dates Mark wrote his gospel, we can generally agree a period of 20ish years passed between Mark and Barnabas’ ministry beginning together and Paul’s request to Timothy to send Mark to him because he was “very useful” to him in ministry.
Years of faithfulness, of developing his gifts, of being mentored by Peter – a man who knew failure more intimately than most – and ultimately penning his memoirs into the gospel of Mark. It’s impossible to know how many times Mark and Paul crossed paths during this period of time but from Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy, Mark wasn’t holding a grudge and ducking Paul in the grocery store aisles and Paul did not write Mark off as a lost cause. Both men remained open to one another and the gospel was spread further because of it.
4. Mark was eager to be proven useful in ministry to the person he had disappointed.
In case you’ve missed it, the yellow brick road back to our calling is paved with stones of humility. Mark and Paul’s story could have ended with the infamous argument however I do not think it accidental that Paul’s last known writing makes mention of Mark’s proven usefulness to him.
It’s easy to fancy ourselves humble until we are in a position requiring us to acknowledge someone else was right and we were wrong. We can be right or we can have relationship however the two are most often mutually exclusive. Mark could have continued his ministry and enjoyed great impact all over the known world without ever having to cross paths with Paul again. He would have been well-proven but not to the man he had disappointed most.
Often, we distance ourselves from those we’ve let down most because we are to proud to prove ourselves to them. We fail and we leave. We leave spouses. We leave churches. We leave jobs. We think starting over somewhere else will give us a new beginning without acknowledging that it’s not the environment that needs to change – it’s us. Mark deserted Paul and the work to which they were called but made his way back around to him to show he wasn’t the same man who had left him at Perga. That, friends, is the ultimate redemption.
Considering all these things, it’s fair to say the first step in staging a comeback is a heartfelt, humble expression of repentance for the wandering. No excuses, no justifications. No finger pointing at whomever you perceive is at fault for causing you to stray. C.S. Lewis said it best in Weight of Glory:
“I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality asking Him not to forgive me but excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology”. But excusing says, “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame”. And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.”
So, what’s your story? Are you a “Mark”? Then follow his path to the end. You can’t go it alone so next time we’ll talk more about your companions on the comeback road.]]>
Everyone loves a great redemption story. Give an audience a movie about a knocked-out prize fighter who trains to redeem himself in the ring and we’ll not only buy the ticket but demand a sequel. Let a rock star who has battled personal demons finally release new music and we are waving lighters and wearing the t-shirt. Human beings – especially believers – need to have hope that a catastrophic moral failure, disappointment, apathy, devastation, tragedy, and/or any situation keeping us from intimacy and obedience to God does not have to be the end. There is always time and opportunity for a comeback.
One of the best comeback tales of the New Testament is that of John Mark (aka Mark as in the gospel writer) and is summed up in 2 Timothy 4:11: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry”. Unless one knows Mark was once NOT useful to Paul in ministry, we may miss the significance of this statement.
The book of Acts is a narrative of the spread of Christianity throughout Jerusalem as well as the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas as they work to establish the church in other cities. Acts 12 tells of the miraculous release of Peter from prison where he runs directly to the home of Mark’s mom. Mark isn’t there because he has accompanied Paul and his cousin, Barnabas, to the island of Cyprus to serve as their assistant. The threesome sails back to the mainland where Mark leaves the group and returns to his hometown of Jerusalem. (Acts 12:12).
We don’t know the reason for his departure. Maybe the encounter with an evil magician who Paul struck blind was enough to send a boy running home to mom? Whatever the reason, it’s clear it doesn’t sit well with Paul. When a second trip is planned Barnabas suggests they take Mark along, “but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.” (Acts 15:38)
Paul and Barnabas get into a huge fight and part ways – Paul taking Silas and Barnabas sticking to his guns with his choice of Mark. I would love to hear what you are thinking now about Paul. Words come to mind like, “jerk” and “judgmental”. Who was Paul to keep Mark from ministry just because he had blown it?
Paul was exactly who he was supposed to be in this scenario – a role player in redemption. Our comeback roads require a team of different personalities to see us be useful in ministry again. We need our Paul – the one who will call us on our mistakes and hold us accountable to our restoration. We need a Barnabas who will believe in us as we are proving ourselves useful again. We need a Peter – that person who has been restored from a similar past but is walking a path of faithfulness. Mark went on to pen the gospel of Mark chronicling Peter’s experience with Jesus proving they used their common failures as a spring board for service rather than company for misery.
I want to spend some time exploring all these roles however that would make for a very long blog post. Let’s close it today with a question: Which role are you playing?
Are you Mark, the one who has deserted and needs hope you can experience a comeback? Are you a Paul, the one who consistently finds herself in the place of truth-telling and is consequentially often labeled as judgmental or critical ? Are you a Barnabas, the one who feels you are a magnet for people in distress and are willing to take time for a meeting at the coffee house to listen? Are you a Peter, a person who has been redeemed from a past alienation from God (for whatever reason) and gives hope and purpose to others not as far down the comeback road as you’ve come?
This is the beauty of the Body of Christ. It takes all the gifts, all the personalities to make one whole again however we cannot accomplish this when our churches are full of those in the throes of desertion and very few healthy or engaged enough to help others back into the ring. Those in supporting roles must be willing to invest time into the process – into people. “Christian Introvert” is an oxymoron and yet is becoming a primary excuse to remain self-absorbed.
Mine and Luke’s desire has always been to present the small part of the church with which we’ve been entrusted as one without spot or blemish. More than ever we ache with Paul’s heart for the universal church, “Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” It’s beyond time for a comeback. One must be humble, willing to hear the truth, and hungry for the blessing of God to rest upon them again.
Will you come home?]]>
2018 began with no small amount of heartbreak for the McKay family. In December Luke’s dad, Bob, was diagnosed with cancer and one short month later he was gone.
Losing a man who loved his family well and never missed one thing his grand kids did no matter what state they were currently living in deserves its own reflection. For now, let it be enough that his absence was deeply felt as Sawyer graduated college in May with Sam and our nephew, Matthew, graduating high school soon afterwards. To give us all something to look forward to during this season of mourning and to celebrate the boys’ accomplishments we planned an epic vacation to Arizona via California I like to describe as “Innocents Out West” subtitled “If Home Alone and the Griswolds had a Baby”.
The trip also deserves its own chronicle however during a Hummer tour of the Sedona red rocks our guide, Phil, pointed out an interesting cactus he called a Century plant. The base looked like a gigantic aloe with a brightly-colored flower towering 20+ feet into the air. Phil explained we were seeing a rare occurrence since it only bloomed once in a lifetime – generally when 25-30 years old. After blooming, it would die and go to seed.
I was mesmerized by this plant, took its picture, looked it up on the internet. It felt significant to be witnessing this singular event, this explosion of color knowing it would also bring about the dying process. The imagery of a once-in-a-lifetime bloom spoke to me and if only applying it to desert vegetation one could almost consider it romantic.
When images capture my imagination I often work them around in my mind to see how they may translate to spiritual metaphor. The longer I contemplated this one all thoughts of romance died. Why? There are far too many believers with a once-in-a-lifetime sense of purpose perfectly content to have experienced a singular period of obedience and go to seed knowing the brightest days are those lived sometime prior to now.
Who among us has ever experienced a season of absolute certainty we were operating within God’s call on our lives, of serving others before ourselves, of incredible wonder when God was moving in our midst only to have it wither and die? How many believe we were only allowed one “bloom” but we blew it so there’s nothing left to do now but go through the motions until we are called home?
There’s a NeedtoBreathe song called “Wasteland” with the lyric, “There was a greatness I felt for a while and somehow it changed.” Perhaps this resonates as it did with me. What brings about this sudden shift or sometimes slow departure from assurance and harmony with God’s intent for our existence? Find a few clues by thinking through scripture of those we know were dwelling in obedience and then suddenly… weren’t. Adam and Eve’s fall. Noah’s drunkenness. Abraham’s lapse of faith. Elijah’s exhaustion. David’s adultery. Peter’s denial. Mark’s desertion. One thing we know from these examples – when things change it’s because we change. God didn’t nor will He. Ever. (James 1:17) He will not reinterpret his commands to fit a new situation or generation. He will not invoke goodness over our badness. He will not stomach our pride. He will not let a soul be at peace when it’s not seeking Him fully. He will not give rest from Him, only in Him.
These men and women are all known for their failures however I would rather focus on their restorations. The mistakes were not once in a lifetime but neither were their successes. The fall was not the end of the story for any one of them and believer – it’s not ours either. Your heart may be dry as a bone and flowers long faded but as long as we draw breath there is always opportunity to bloom again and time for a comeback.
More to come…..]]>
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
I recently returned to jogging and went out for a run on a Saturday morning with the sun high in the cloudless sky and 1000% humidity. It was a brilliant move highly recommended by elite athletes everywhere.
A few miles in I arrived at a place in the road with a prolonged, steady incline that is demoralizing on a good day but was absolutely kicking my tail on this awful one. My sweat-soaked brow and unstable legs harshly reminded me that not only am I not an elite athlete but rather a 47-year-old woman who does not have to be doing this to herself. So, I did what all pros recommend when they hit a wall – I called Luke to ask him to come pick me up and also bring snacks.
What the pros don’t tell you is what to do when your rescuer doesn’t answer the phone. After a couple of tries it became abundantly clear no one was coming to save me. All hopes of Diet Dr. Pepper and Kit-Kats were dashed and it was time to figure out what to do.
I considered my options. I could call the boys but that would mean one of them would actually have to answer the cell phone I pay for to communicate with them. I would have hitchhiked with Jack the Ripper but not a single car passed. I could call 911 but in my condition couldn’t remember the number. And so, I began the long trip home by concluding there are some roads that can only be walked out with you and Jesus and did the only thing I could – put one shaky foot in front of the other.
On the trek back, I thought much about the various ways we find ourselves expecting others to be our Jesus and how bitter we can become when they don’t show up rescue us in our time of despair. Worse yet is looking for a substitute savior that has no business being in ours. My nephew is a tri-athlete (it doesn’t run in the family) and he told us once about race volunteers offering Gatorade to the competitors not knowing once the sugar hits their ravaged systems it makes them mess their very tight pants. The lesson of that repulsive visual? Though the refreshment being offered seems like an oasis in the desert, make certain the person from whom you take is an authority on the subject – both intellectually and morally – and doesn’t have an ulterior motive slanting the advice. Though well-intentioned, “sweetened” solutions not rooted in scripture can leave us in a much worse condition than we began.
So, what do we do when we are struggling and no one is coming to save us? Matthew 5 says we rejoice understanding this present suffering will make the next one a bit easier to endure ultimately producing a sanctified version of ourselves. Knowing we are never powerless or abandoned by the God who loves us produces hope and faith that was perhaps missing and created our neediness to begin with.
Meditating on these things, I hardly noticed that wavering steps had sped to a shuffle and the shuffle progressed to a slow jog. Finally, home was in view and like a horse that sees the barn I kicked it up another notch to the finish line which looks a lot like my mailbox. I turned in to the driveway to find Luke working in the yard without a clue I had ever called for help.
I’m glad he didn’t answer.]]>
Pasty-white skin. Check. Exhausted eyes. Check. Blood spittle. Check. Facial Hair. Not yet but it’s only a few more swigs of Nyquil away.
My original goal was to knock this thing out in 30 minutes but considering I can’t even climb the stairs in my house without stopping to rest halfway, I decided maybe I would just walk with Luke. However, our teacher/trainer, Maury, was very correct when he said our competitive spirits would overtake us when everyone took off at the start line. When a gentleman easily twice my age went shuffling by me, I decided it was time to be his huckleberry and kick it in to gear. Luke may have to check this lunger into a sanatorium out west but I refused to be denied by a dude in Easy Spirit’s and dark dress socks. (And if you don’t get the Tombstone references, I am so sorry for you. It was Val Kilmer’s finest hour.)
We had 71 of our group run the race and every last one of us completed the course. We had 3- 1st Place finishers in their age groups and several top 3. To clarify, I was not one of those but here’s my official result:
Overall Finish: 171
Total Runners: 382
Age Group: F4049
Place in Age Group: 16
Age Group Total: 54
Not what I had hoped but it could have been worse! Heaven help me for saying it, but I’m looking forward to trying it again when hopefully I’m not sick or injured. Let me conclude with a few pics:
Moms and daughters. I know, it’s hard to tell which is which.
98% of the pictures I have of these two are a variation of this pose.
Syd with Mattie close behind.
If you can expand this photo you will find me looking eerily like Doc in the one above. Oxygen deficient doesn’t begin to cover all the ailments right here.
Luke and Stan. Stan had a bum leg so he and Luke were partners for the day. Luke did not have a bum leg but his slogan for this entire training has been, “Ain’t no shame in the shuffle.” So, they shuffled together and near the end got the eye of the tiger and crossed the line running.
Luke’s other slogan for the day: “I’m so glad that is over.”
Preacher photobombs. It should be a meme.
Awwww…this week was our 25th wedding anniversary. How fitting that we would run a race to mark the occasion.
And our beloved IBC group. I am so proud of each and every one of you for commitment toward this goal. We love you dearly and can’t think of any one else we’d rather run alongside. And of course, a special thank you to Maury and Kim. Every bible study they undertake for our church body is done with excellence and we are all so grateful for their investment of heart and time.
Easter has come and gone and I hope it’s obvious our primary, over-arching focus was joining once again in the death, burial and resurrection of the Risen Lord. But let’s all be honest with ourselves and admit as gifts are to Christmas so outfits are to Easter. True to form I was shopping at 11:00 pm Saturday night trying to find clothes in a color palette that coordinated enough to satisfy me without matching too much for the teenagers. You’d better believe after all that heartache I wasn’t about to let the day get away without a few pictures. It didn’t take long for Luke and I to decide the pictures between the pictures tell the truer Story of Us.
Show me your best side.
Not you, Bailey. That is inappropriate. You are embarrassing Sawyer. (Don’t look, son.)
It’s important to clarify which kid you are talking to when instructing on how to stand like a girl.
Syd’s laugh. It cures all that ails. Except Sam’s head.
You didn’t believe me, did you? Please look at that face and just try to have a bad day.
This is the picture we were going for. Almost. We have some eyes closed.
And yet these poses lasted only a moment. I like to call this one, “I Crack Myself Up”.
This laugh. It cures all that ails. Wait, don’t I have another kid with that same super power?
And my favorite…the rare photo where all six of us are on the same side of the camera. The better shot would have been the one of me sprinting across the yard to beat the timer in stiletto heels. Easter is work, man.
As much as the Resurrection deserves profundity, I will instead leave you with the simple truth that I look at this picture and am so incredibly grateful to God who died for us and lives in all 6 of us. He lives for us while we are putting a great deal of effort in to having it all together but He works best in us in those pictures between the pictures where are most authentic selves are revealed.
It took some time but I’ve learned to love and embrace those moments the most.
Please remind me I said that next year if you see me shopping at 11 p.m. on Easter Eve.]]>
It is a given this picture delights me. It represents young and old, church members and community members, and those whose bodies hurt and don’t hurt. The former outnumbers the latter if our groaned laps are any indication. I hear a splinter cell Bible study is being formed called, “Eating Cheez-Its for Jesus”. It has legs. Flabby, cellulite-ridden legs but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with those because, y’all. My shins are ruined. It’s my fault for running in bad shoes on concrete for the first week. Luke’s knees are also a wreck so you can’t even imagine the whining that is going on especially on Saturday mornings when we meet to train at 7:30 a.m.
Luke and I are also trying to eat a little more healthy during this process. How’s that going? On our way home from running last night he said, “Pull in at the store so I can get some ice cream. Ummm, not to eat. To put my knee in.” So we soaked our knees in butter pecan and chocolate syrup and felt instantly better.
But here’s the thing, you can’t be a big baby when an 85-year-old woman is not only showing up for the Bible Study but running. Mrs. Green has always been an inspiration to all of us for many reasons but it is confirmed now that she is the stuff of legend. We have developed a code word for whiners, “I.G.” which are Mrs. Green’s initials. So basically, take your ibuprofen and suck it up because if I.G. can do it, so can we.
Which is the point of this entire experience for me thus far. We are better together. We do things in community we can never accomplish alone. We bear one another’s burdens, share our ankle braces and compression socks, spur each other on when we want to quit, and run the race set before us shoulder to shoulder.
Church together is a beautiful thing, shin splints and all.
(I love you, IBC. Can’t imagine the race with anyone but you.)]]>
This is the part where I make a confession. Almost 3 years ago when I joined the traditional workforce it felt like the death to some dreams. In my naivete I believed real ministry was over and that I had joined the masses of Workplace Believers that lived predictable, robotic lives without opportunity to see God do the amazing things that He could only perform through those who sat at their dining room table blogging and teaching women’s events.
I was wrong.
I have earned a gigantic respect for the workplace faithful because it is among the common where the work of ministry is being done. I’ve personally gathered with my own co-workers to intercede for our company and for one another in times of heartache, illness, and tragedy. I can just imagine those of you who do the same either through something as overt as corporate prayer or as inconspicuous as encouraging your sister with a troubled marriage to give it one more chance because you did and saw your own relationship restored. This is the Kingdom Come.
I have also learned it was somewhat easy to display a gentle spirit when I spent the majority of the day with either a) myself or b) people who stopped by the church when I spent time there working with Luke. But, get yourself into an office or a hospital or a school where stress runs high and tempers flare and you will quickly find out that not only are there people who can really push your well-disguised buttons but that somewhere along the way you have become one gigantic button. Work is the hardest place in the world not necessarily to be nice but to stay that way. I’ve destroyed my credibility to witness in situations because I decided it was more important to be right than righteous. Believer, it matters if people like you. How can they believe God is love if His people are jerks? That doesn’t mean we are mealy-mouthed doormats but one of the purpose statements of my new company says it best this way, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”
I say these things to you because of the value of the experience of these past few years and how I have grown to cherish what I thought was me giving up. May I encourage you as well? Your work is worthwhile, your presence needful, your place is on purpose. If seeking other employment ask yourself, “Is it the environment that needs to change or is it me?” Don’t shortcut the lessons God would teach about ourselves if we only walked the thing to it’s completion. I know this because I’ve done this. I did end up making a move but He didn’t create the opportunity until I was content to remain.
Let those who encounter you at the hallowed ground about the water cooler find refreshment because they did. This is the place where God will do the miraculous one conversation at a time through you…. the Work Place Believer.
That’s when I realized I have not published on this blog since September 11, left a somewhat depressing last entry, and have not updated any “About” information in literally years. Embarrassing.
If I were to have a title to last night’s message it would be something like, “Staging a Come Back”. The gist had to do with renewal in our spiritual lives so that we aren’t living with our “glory days” behind us when relationship with God and vibrancy were at their peak. As I told the women there, you don’t get a lesson from me unless it has first been directed at me. The past couple of years have been ones of great transition. Writing as well as public ministry has taken a backseat to the more private focus of the people in the four walls of my home. I am now a part of the traditional workforce and I realize how spoiled I was for a very long time to be at home with my nose in a book and the zeal to then share thoughts and strings of words to those kind enough to read and talk back. I’ve never gotten over missing the writing and missing you.
One of the points I shared last night is that sometimes our Come Backs are not necessarily to the same areas of calling that seem to have dwindled. Sometimes they are a Call To sing a new song that God puts in our mouth based on our current experience. One of the great joys of my past few months has been taking on the challenge of teaching our College/Career class at church. These kids in their late teens/early 20’s who are continuing education and finding workplaces of their own obligate me to faithfulness in the call when I want to use the ‘I’m too busy’ cop out. Lest you think that is a terrible thing to say, we would all do so well as to position ourselves so that we have no option but to keep using the gift with which we have been entrusted even when we don’t feel like it. If you ever stop doing it, you will stop wanting to do it. And then it will be all the more difficult to ever want or do again. The lie we have bought in the midst of busy lives is that numbing our mind is restorative. Numb your mind, and your heart will follow. And thus, we have churches full of passion-less people who are content with looking over the photo albums of their Times of Greatness and not even daring to hope those could come again.
Don’t misunderstand… I’m not talking about personal greatness. I’m talking about those times when Christ has been most evident in us, His Glory most revealed, and those people within your homes and circles of influence the most affected. You know those times of which I speak. I wonder if there be any among you who needs a Come Back of her own?
I am not a fan of the New Year’s Resolution but I do like a start date. A line in the sand that says I will not carry the baggage of back there with me over here. So that’s more or less where I am in this moment. Realizing that I need to do some things in order to want to do them again. Stephen King described doing-until-you-feel-it best in his book, “On Writing”:
“At the start of the road back I just tried to believe the people who said that things would get better if I gave them time to do so. And I never stopped writing. Some of the stuff that came out was tentative and flat but at least it was there. I buried those unhappy, lackluster pages in the bottom drawer of my desk and got on to the next project. Little by little I found the beat again, and after that I found the joy again. I came back to my family with gratitude and back to my work with relief – I came back to it the way folks come back to a summer cottage after a long winter, checking first to make sure nothing had been stolen or broken during the cold season. Nothing had been. It was still all there, still all whole. Once the pipes were thawed out and the electricity turned back on, everything worked fine. “
For all of us, the gifts remain. We just have to decide we are weary of the winter and muster the courage to turn on the lights and get on with it. Finding the beat again sounds nice but knowing the Source of the Joy sounds even better. It is my prayer for my own 2015.
I pray it for you too.
p.s. Next, I may even work on updating my “About” page. Not because I must but because I want to.]]>
On September 11, 2001, I was pumping gas at Dodd’s Service Station when Mr. Dodd himself asked me if I had heard about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I had not so I walked into his office where the regulars were gathered around the television. In my naivete I wondered how a pilot could have made such a horrible error when the second plane hit in front of our eyes and the realization of intention vs. accident began to sink in. The ‘terrorist’ word was uttered and all innocence with it’s proclamation. We were a nation under attack.
I broke the bewildered fellowship and drove to Chattanooga with lump in throat and legs shaking while listening to frantic newscasters speculate on what was happening and if it was over and where these people may strike next. I arrived at Sam’s Club, stepped out of the car and stood stunned and motionless with many others as the deafening engines of airplanes being grounded from every conceivable direction to the local airport felt like the end of the world. I fully expected a Boeing to land right on top of us and had that been the case, I don’t think I could have moved from that spot such was the shock. That pause – that moment when time stopped and perfect strangers turned eyes to the sky and joined in fear and grief and sobs – remains one of the most surreal moments of my life.
For posterity’s sake….do you remember where you were that dreadful day? Feel free to share it here but more importantly, don’t ever let die those details nor fail to share them with your children. Our freedoms are a rare gift and will become rarer still if we fail to recount the cost. Praying today those who lost loved ones feel the comfort of a God and nation who will never forget. Praying God will thwart the evil ones who sow this madness, that He would shine on them and turn them from their wickedness. And perhaps most of all, I pray He comes quickly and crushes the True Enemy under His beautiful feet.